How to become a Scuba Diving Instructor

by Robert Small, Scuba Instructor and Explorer

I am often asked “how do I get your job?” or ” your job is like one big vacation!” well firstly the fact I make it look like one long vacation means I’m doing it very well because let me tell you it’s not! Secondly, to get this job is actually quite easy…actually it’s sometimes too easy!! this brings me to the first problem…

There are many companies out there who will offer a “Zero-Hero” course. Please be aware of these companies and do your research…Most of the time what they are offering is open water diver (OWD) to Dive Master (DM), this is NOT a dive instructor!! the Instructor course (IDC) will be extra and many times you will not be ready for this course due to poor training. You will work very long hours while being told you are learning the workings of a dive center!!! Now I know I’m painting a poor picture of this method but that’s because a lot of the time these companies are essentially using your enthusiasm in order for free workers and will pretty much “sign you off” at the end of the agreed time regardless of your ability. This can be dangerous and costly. However there are some companies out there who offer this method and offer it VERY well…teaching you properly and Professionally! Best advice…DO YOUR RESEARCH..ask questions of the company before you start and try to find comments/blogs of others who have done it at that company before.

And now the Second problem…

This is a job at the end of the day, when you are on vacation and see the instructor laughing, joking with their nice deep tan and always smiling. You have to remember that it’s not always like this, it’s not one big long party! I have had many people come on vacation, decide they want the life, go home and come back out to work.. only to leave a few weeks later as it wasn’t what they thought it was going to be like.

OK…now the good parts. There are few jobs in the world that you can do all over the world, this is one of them! Warm waters, cold lakes, rivers and streams, ice and oceans. You will encounter People from all cultures and see wildlife under and over the water that others only dream of seeing. There really is no place on earth you couldn’t do this job… although most want to do it around 5 deg. either side of the equator! I remember being told, when I first started in the Maldives, that when ever I was having a bad day to go to the seaplane and watch the guests leaving… after saving for sometimes years they had finished their vacation and were heading home, many of them with tears rolling down their cheeks. I was being paid to live and work in a place people cried when leaving…it was very hard to stay in a bad mood for long.

Once you know this is what you want to do below are the 5 basic steps needed. you don’t need to go away somewhere warm and tropical to do it. Do a little internet search, find your local Dive center and go have a talk with them.


Become an ‘Open Water Diver’. This is the first step on the way of how to become a Diving Instructor and it teaches you the necessary skills and methods for you to become a competent diver. The course will start with academic sessions in which you will learn the basic information required to understand what happens to your body when you dive and how to plan your dives safely. This is followed by the confined water sessions in a swimming pool or other controlled environment where you will be introduced to the skills you must complete in order to progress. You will then complete four open water dives and complete many of the skills that will form the basis of your continued development through to instructor level.


After completing your ‘Open Water Diver’ course, progress onto the PADI ‘Advanced Open Water’ course. This course consists of five open water specialty dives; deep diver, navigation, and three dives of your choice. The dives you choose will be down to your personal preference but guidance will be given by your instructor.


After completing your five advanced dives, move on to the ‘Rescue Diver’ course, where, as the name suggests, you will learn to be of assistance to instructors and dive masters in an emergency situation. The course begins with a first aid stand alone course called ‘Emergency First Responders’ course(EFR). You will learn basic first aid, useful in everyday life and also how to deal with dive related injuries such as decompression sickness. The course will then move to the pool where, once again, you will learn the skills to enable you to aid other divers that may be in trouble. The course then culminates with open water dives, in which situations will occur and you will be expected to use the skills that you have learned over the course to rescue the diver or divers in trouble.


Take the ‘Dive Master’ Course. At this point, you will be a competent and experienced diver, able to deal with many situations that may occur in day-to-day diving life and well on your way to be learning how to become a diving instructor. The next major milestone on your progression to becoming a diving instructor is the ‘Dive Master’ course. This is a structured course in which you will learn new skills and methods, how to run a dive boat and lead dive trips, as well as assisting instructors with their courses and providing support for students on their open water, advanced or rescue diver courses. You will sit exams and gain further knowledge in the science of diving, such as physics and biology. You will also cover the basics of teaching skills such as with a scuba review for those that have had a gap in between diving. The course will enable you to dive as much as you want, which is beneficial as you will need at least sixty dives in order to be signed off as a PADI Dive Master.


Take the ‘Instructor Development Course’ or IDC. This final course takes about two to three weeks and consists of the PADI Assistant Instructors course, the Instructors Development course or IDC, mock exams and final practical exams. Once you have completed and passed this final course you are now an ‘Open Water Scuba Instructor’ or OWSI. That’s it on how to become a diving instructor!